Jeffry Lohrâs life work has gone beyond producing his own creations, to teaching woodworking to the world.
|Jeffry Lohr was commissioned to design and build this dining table out of a 300-year-old 22,000-pound English brown oak burl log. One of the largest, single through-and-through cut solid wood slab tables in the country, according to Lohr, the free-form piece measures 52 inches wide by 141 inches long and seats 12. Photo by Paul Anthony.|
For much of his 35-year career in woodworking, Schwenksville, PA, master craftsman Jeffry Lohr created unique Arts and Crafts Movement-influenced furniture designs. Although he steered clear of direct reproductions, elements of Greene & Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mission, Craftsman and Bungalow styles were featured in his work. Lohr followed his own design route, softening these somewhat hard-edged styles by using an enhanced color palette of varied woods, such as Pennsylvania black walnut, figured black cherry and figured maple, and building his reputation.
The fine craftsmanship of that work can be seen in the furniture gallery on his Web site, jdlohrwood.com.
Today, however Lohr says he is done showing his Arts and Crafts pieces and has moved on to new artistic directions, producing what he calls his âLive Edgeâ furniture, built from slabs he cuts from huge logs.
Working out of several buildings on his 13-acre farm, including a 3,600-square-foot shop and a two-story sawmill, Lohr is aided by two journeyman assistants, former apprentices, in building massive pieces of furniture made from slabs of felled lumber. An example of Lohrâs recent direction is the 52-inch by 141-inch dining room table, built on commission from a 300-year-old, 22,000-pound English brown oak burl log. A free-form console tablewas also built from the same imposing log. Lohr says there are special challenges involved in working with such large pieces of wood.
âFrom a design standpoint, it is really difficult to do a Live Edge piece without making it look like something out of âThe Flintstones,ââ Lohr says, laughing. âOften, the architecture that surrounds the slab and develops it into a piece of furniture is not too well thought out.
âIt is difficult,â Lohr continues. âYou have many problems with wood movement because you are dealing with such large, wide-open slabs. Moisture content is everything. The material, the way it is all put together, with bases and drawers, really has to be engineered to withstand the movement of the material. Itâs not like working with panel stock or even decently cut dimensional lumber. When you are dealing with a slab 50 inches wide, it can get crazy.â
Highlighting his commitment to sustainable forestry, Lohr says every piece of Live Edge furniture he builds is made from salvaged trees.
Another important facet is Lohrâs career as a teacher. The J.D. Lohr School of Woodworking offers eight one-week sessions in practical, machine-based woodworking for 10 students at a time. âIt is the equivalent of a semester of college woodworking in a week,â says Lohr.
|Jeffry Lohr taught Ghanan woodworker Abu Abdullai woodworking techniques that the student was able to take with him back to Africa.|
Lohrâs latest, and perhaps most important work, came about because of the school, when Abubakar Abdullai, a prospective student from Ghana in West Africa, contacted Lohr about attending the school. Overcoming many hurdles, both financial and logistical, and with the help of Lohr, his wife Linda, Lohrâs students and other generous individuals, the eager student was able to travel to the U.S., where he stayed with Lohr while he undertook his training. In turn, inspired by the plight of his studentâs impoverished nation, Lohr formed a non-governmental organization (NGO) called MoringaCommunity.org. This non-profit groupâs primary mission is to build a woodworking school in Ghana.
The dream is coming closer to fruition, as the group recently secured a nine- acre land parcel close to public utility access on which to build the Moringa Community Training Center. Donations are gladly accepted for this endeavor, which Lohr points out is less a charity than simply following Lao Tsuâs proverb: âGive a man a fish and feed him for only one day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.â
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